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Williams v. Godinez

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 28, 2017

OSCAR WILLIAMS, JR., Petitioner,
v.
SALVADOR GODINEZ, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          HOWARD D. McKIBBEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This closed action is a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by a Nevada state prisoner. Several motions are pending before the Court and are resolved in this order.

         I. Background

         On October 3, 1990, petitioner filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court. (ECF No. 13). This Court denied the amended petition in a memorandum decision and judgment was filed February 18, 1993. (ECF Nos. 41 & 42). Petitioner appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (ECF No. 44). On August 17, 1994, the Ninth Circuit affirmed this Court's denial of the amended petition. (ECF No. 70).

         On February 27, 2012, petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment, seeking reconsideration of this Court's 1993 order denying his petition. (ECF No. 73). By order filed April 4, 2012, this Court denied petitioner's motion for relief from judgment. (ECF No. 74).

         On August 17, 2015, petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), (5) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 81). Petitioner claimed that the Ninth Circuit's decision in Riley v. McDaniel, 786 F.3d 719 (2015), constitutes an intervening change in controlling law that allows this Court to reconsider its denial of his 1990 petition. The issue in Riley involves a jury instruction used in Nevada murder trials. Petitioner's motion for relief from judgment is based entirely on the Riley decision.

         Respondents filed a motion for a stay of proceedings in this action (ECF No. 87), pending final resolution of the petition for writ of certiorari filed in Riley v. McDaniel, 786 F.3d 719 (9th Cir. 2015), at United States Supreme Court docket number 15-630. (ECF No. 91, at Exhibit 2). On February 25, 2016, this Court granted respondents' motion to stay the proceedings. (ECF No. 92). In the same order, the Court denied petitioner's motion for relief from judgment, without prejudice to renewing his arguments once the stay was lifted. (Id.).

         II. Stay is Lifted

         On May 4, 2016, petitioner filed a motion to lift the stay in this action. (ECF No. 93). On March 23, 2016, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari in Riley v. McDaniel, and the final mandate issued on April 26, 2016. Respondents filed a notice of non-opposition to petitioner's motion to lift the stay. (ECF No. 94). Petitioner's motion to lift the stay in this action is granted.

         III. Petitioner's Motion is an Improper Successive Petition

         On August 17, 2015, petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), (5), and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 81). On September 19, 2016, petitioner filed a “motion to grant motion for relief from judgment.” (ECF No. 95). Petitioner asks this Court to “reverse its prior ruling denying Grounds 19 and 20 of petitioner's amended petition for writ of habeas corpus in light of the contrary decision(s) made by the Court, regarding the constitutionality of Nevada's ‘Kazalyn' jury instruction.” (ECF No. 81, at p. 3; ECF No. 95). In support of his request, petitioner relies on the Ninth Circuit's decision in Riley v. McDaniel, 786 F.3d 719 (2015). Respondents have opposed petitioner's motion for relief from judgment. (ECF Nos. 97 & 98). Respondents later filed a motion for leave to file a supplement to their opposition, along with an attached supplemental opposition. (ECF No. 104 & 104-1). Respondents' motion to file a supplemental opposition is granted.

         “Habeas corpus petitions cannot utilize a Rule 60(b) motion to make and end-run around the requirements of the AEDPA or to otherwise circumvent that statute's restrictions on second or successive habeas corpus petitions.” Jones v. Ryan, 773 F.3d 825, 833 (9th Cir. 2013). A Rule 60(b)(6) motion seeking reconsideration based upon a subsequent change in substantive law “is in substance a successive habeas petition and should be treated accordingly.” Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 US. 524, 531 (2005). A proper Rule 60(b) motion “generally attack[s] the integrity of the federal habeas corpus proceedings. Jones, 733 F.3d at 834. In contrast, a “disguised second or successive habeas corpus petition” presents claims “constituting, in effect, new requests for relief on the merits.” Id.; see also Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 530.

         Petitioner asks this Court to reconsider its ruling on the merits with respect to Grounds 19 and 20 of his amended federal petition in light of the Ninth Circuit's decision in Riley v. McDaniel, 786 F.3d 719 (9th Cir. 2015). Petitioner claims that this Court “should reverse its prior ruling denying Grounds 19 and 20 of petitioner's amended petition . . . in light of the contrary decision(s) made by the Court, regarding the constitutionality of Nevada's ‘Kazalyn' jury instruction.” (ECF No. 81, at p. 3). In making these arguments, petitioner is seeking a second opportunity to present the merits of his claims in Grounds 19 and 20 of his amended federal petition. (ECF No. 81). The contents of his motion focus on the applicability of Riley to the claims petitioner originally presented in 1990 via his amended federal petition. (ECF No. 81; ECF No. 13, at pp. 26-27). Such claims have no bearing on the integrity of petitioner's federal habeas proceeding. Instead, petitioner's arguments go to the heart of whether the trial court erred in providing certain jury instructions during petitioner's 1985 trial.

         Petitioner does not argue that this Court's prior order rested on a mistaken premise. Rather, he states that subsequent constitutional rulings prove that “jury instruction no. 8 in petitioner's trial had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict . . . during petitioner's 1985 trial.” (ECF No. 81, at p. 5). Thus, petitioner clearly seeks to “remedy constitutional violations” rather than “cure procedural violations in an earlier proceeding.” Abdur'Rahman v. Bell, 537 U.S. 88, 96 (2002) (citations omitted). Because petitioner presents a successive habeas petition disguised as a Rule 60(b) motion, he must first comply with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A). All applicants seeking relief with a second or successive petition must first “move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A). The court of appeals must then make a determination if “the application makes a prima facie showing that the application satisfies the requirements” of § 2244. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(C). Petitioner has not sought review from the ...


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